Dr. Karen L. Parko is a Professor in the Department of Neurology at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), and the National Director of the Veterans Affairs Epilepsy Centers of Excellence. She is a retired Commissioned Officer from the United States Public Health Service (USPHS). Dr. Parko’s career focus has been on improving epilepsy care in disadvantaged populations. She is nationally recognized for her leadership in health care and health policy.
Dr. Parko received a B.A. degree in Psychobiology from New York University and an M.D. degree from the F. Edward Hebert School of Medicine at the Uniformed Services University in Bethesda, MD. Following an internship in Internal Medicine at the Washington Hospital Center in Washington, DC, she completed a residency in Neurology at UCSF.
After residency she worked in the Indian Health Service (IHS) as a solo neurologist for ten years on the Navajo reservation, where she established the reservation’s first neurology clinic, providing adult and pediatric neurology services and neurodiagnostic testing to this population of nearly 300,000.
In 2010 she became the National Director of the VA Epilepsy Centers of Excellence, whose mission is to improve the health and well-being of Veterans with epilepsy through the integration of clinical care, outreach, research, and education.
Dr. Parko has been involved in disaster and humanitarian relief medicine, including the Anthrax prophylaxis of postal workers following 9/11 in 2001, as a physician team leader for the 2002 Winter Olympics, as the chief clinical operations officer for Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and the 2007 California wildfires response. In 2000 she served as a medical officer aboard NOAA vessel McArthur during its Stenella Mission in the Eastern Pacific.
Dr. Parko is a Fellow of the American Academy of Neurology, a member of the American Epilepsy Society and the International League against Epilepsy. She serves on the National and Northern California professional advisory boards of the Epilepsy Foundation of America.